Local Leaders Share Ideas On How To Make America GREEN Again!

The Healthy Planet asked some local environmental and conservation folks to share some ideas on how Healthy Planet readers can “Make America Green Again.” We hope you will find some ideas here that will urge you into action in the new year and beyond. Our planet is counting on you!

Become politically engaged – Civil society and a cleaner environment did not just happen. It was created through long periods of sustained struggle and sacrifice. This national framework has come under ongoing attack from narrow short-term special interests that now threatens the lives that many of us have come to take for granted. Defending the progress that has occurred, and continuing the hard work to move our country towards a sustainable future has never been more critical. It is imperative on citizens to invest in the future through ongoing engagement over a longer arc to make America Green again. Pick a passion, dig in, and help create a future that is worth having for those who follow.

David Berger, Executive Director
St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste
Management District

Spend some time planting for the future, supporting local farmers, and getting active in the local foods movement. Plant a garden in your yard or sign up for a plot in your local community garden. Plant native fruit trees such as persimmons and pawpaws. Integrate edible landscaping by planting food-producing plants such as rainbow chard, kale, herbs, peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes, snack peppers, greens and more. Plant a serviceberry, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry bushes. Plant a pollinator garden to attract bees and monarchs. Commit to shopping regularly at Farmers Markets. Visit a few farms or volunteer on a farm. EarthDance Organic Farm School has several volunteer opportunities. Check out www.earthdancefarms.org or @growcreateinspire on Instagram for gardening ideas.

Crystal Stevens
Writer, Artist & Educator

Recycle your Christmas tree for nature/wildlife benefits. Feed birds and (even more important during super cold weather) provide water. Plant natives when spring gardening season comes along or participate in litter cleanups (we have the Confluence Trash Bash coming up in March). For more informatation on these topics and more visit www.mdc.mo.gov.

Dan Zarlenga
Missouri Department of Conservation

Refuse to use Styrofoam. Never forget your reusable shopping bags. Invest in a reusable water bottle, and don’t forget it!

Jen Myerscough
Executive Director, St. Louis Earth Day

Keep your cats indoors. Free-roaming cats do not play well with birds and other urban wildlife. An indoor cat can be happy and most certainly will be healthier, often living 3-4 times as long as outdoor cats. Your cat and your urban birds will thank you for it! Add native plants to your landscape. Shrubs, perennial flowers, grasses, trees…anything you like and have the space for. Native plants form the base of the food web which feeds insects to our backyard birds. Every songbird in Missouri eats insects during its lifetime. Of course, some of those same insects will become beautiful butterflies and moths…an inspiration in your yard all on their own! Install and maintain a simple water feature for birds and other wildlife. All our songbirds need water to drink AND clean their feathers. It need not be expensive or elaborate. Most any shallow container will do, and with use by the birds and simply refreshing the water during the week, mosquitoes won’t be a problem. It will become one of the most popular parts of your landscape!

Mitch Leachman
Executive Director, St. Louis Audubon Society

Bring your own coffee mug to stores and coffee shops. Paper coffee cups are never recyclable, and lots of places provide a discount for bringing your own mug. Refuse to use Styrofoam. Bring your own containers when you go out to eat – keep them in your car in case of emergencies. Get a re-usable cutlery set from the Green Dining Alliance. Plastic forks, spoons, knives, and straws aren’t recyclable. Get one of our re-usable, sustainably harvested bamboo sets instead and keep trash out of our landfills!

Jenn Derose
Green Dining Alliance
A Program of St. Louis Earth Day

Eat, shop, and spend local to reduce your carbon footprint, promote sustainable practices, and support the local economy. Get outside! Enjoy a city, county, or state park near you. Sign up for alerts from Missouri Coalition for the Environment. Lawmakers and regulators are making decisions every day that effect our health and our environment. They need to hear from you. At moenvironment.org you can learn more about the issues and take action.

Heather Navarro, Executive Director
Missouri Coalition For The Environment

Have a Conversation
Ask someone you know – or better yet someone you encounter – a question about something you are reasonably sure they care about, that you would like to know about. Try making it more personal than the weather. And maybe steer clear of Climate Change as a starter topic. Get to that as your dialogue skills progress.
Listen as your conversation partner responds, and Listen to your own responses to the exchange. If you feel yourself reacting to what they are saying, focus on your breathing to control your reaction. Ask another question or two while you Listen to what you’re hearing. If a real question or comment rises up in you, share that inquiry back. And Listen to the whole process.

People tend to open up when someone is genuinely, intelligently interested in their thoughts or views. You don’t have to agree or disagree. Let some exchange happen. Be brave and connect to another human being, whether it’s a casual or a deep exchange. This is especially good for Americans these days, and will benefit humankind overall.
Let’s try it. Will you tell me about a conversation you’ve had lately?

Green Jean Ponzi demonstrates these skills in her weekly KDHX Earthworms podcasts. You can Listen in at podcasts.kdhx.org.

Encourage your local school to participate in the Green Schools Quest
One of the most powerful forces for greening and change is a community, and local schools rest at the heart of every community. The USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter’s Green Schools Quest is a project-based challenge for public and private K-12 schools that partners Green mentors with schools to help them come up with projects to that make their school more sustainable. Encouraging your local school to participate in the Green Schools Quest is one way to green your community and further the conversation on sustainability throughout the neighborhood.

Johanna Schweiss,
U.S. Green Building Council
Missouri Gateway Chapte